Building collapses in Kensington

Res­id­ents said the build­ing on E. Madis­on Street was "a bomb wait­ing to ex­plode."

Kens­ing­ton res­id­ents were awoken with an earth-shak­ing crash on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 8, when an aban­doned build­ing col­lapsed with a bang.

The col­lapse un­leashed a thick cloud of smoke.

Res­id­ents in the area said they heard a few noises be­fore the 18,000-square-foot ware­house at 1835-61 E. Madis­on St. began to fall apart at around 11 a.m. that day.

“I heard like, a click­ing noise,” said Will Vazquez, who lives be­hind the build­ing site on the 1800 block of East Wil­lard Street. “Then, it stopped. As soon as it stopped, the whole place came down.”

Ac­cord­ing to res­id­ents on scene Aug. 8, the build­ing had long been a prob­lem prop­erty.

Vazquez said drug users would of­ten hide in the build­ing to use nar­cot­ics and to avoid the pry­ing eyes of the law.

Of­ten, he said, he could see people mov­ing in and out of the prop­erty car­ry­ing cop­per pipes in their arms, likely headed to cash the ill-got­ten goods in at the scrap yard.

“That place was empty for at least 20 years,” said Kens­ing­ton res­id­ent Carla Rodrig­uez. “Junkies were al­ways com­ing in and out of there.”

Rodrig­uez’s aunt, Car­men Cruz, owns the grassy lot loc­ated im­me­di­ately be­hind the fallen build­ing.

The lot and the build­ing are sep­ar­ate prop­er­ties.

As re­por­ted by loc­al anti-blight ad­voc­ate Chris Saw­yer on his blog phil­ade­lin­, the former in­dus­tri­al build­ing was owned by a com­pany called Re­fur­bish It, Inc. which owed nearly $33,000 in prop­erty taxes to the city on the now col­lapsed prop­erty.

The city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions took the com­pany’s own­er, George Capewell of North­east Phil­adelphia, to court last month in or­der to force him to pay the de­lin­quent taxes.

Rodrig­uez said her fam­ily was up­set by the de­struc­tion caused by the col­lapsed build­ing.

The cars on the prop­erty – which were crushed and des­troyed by the fallen bricks – were owned by her uncle.

“Right now, my fam­ily, we are very up­set,” she said, not­ing that the fam­ily had al­ways locked the tall gates on the steel fence to the rear of the lot.

“We don’t know who opened it,” she con­tin­ued. “We had just cleaned this lot be­cause my aunt wanted to sell it. Now, it’s a mess.”

No one was re­por­ted in­jured as a res­ult of the col­lapse. On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, crews worked to dig through the rubble and clean up debris.

Work­ers de­clined to com­ment to a re­port­er about the work they were do­ing on the site. 

Yet Vazquez said that he, for one, was glad the build­ing had fi­nally come down - even if he had to wait for it to fall apart on its own.

“That place was a bomb wait­ing to ex­plode. The city should have done something about it years ago,” he said. “It’s been a mess for years.”

Staff re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at hmit­

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